What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Economy: Obama Rejects Keystone
President Obama’s jobs panel urges a broadened tax base and more oil drilling. But he rejects the Keystone pipeline and instead wishes Betty White a happy birthday. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says oil prices will stay high. Andrew Sullivan says President Obama will outsmart all his critics, and Mitt Romney gives him a little help. Cullen Roche is not seeing a lot of inflation in our future. All six recovery indicators are positive for the first time since May 2011. Ed Yardeni says a strong recovery is coming. Mark Thoma explains how the Federal Reserve can prevent the next financial crisis. The Chamber of Commerce says uncertainty continues to be the biggest challenge for small businesses. Kodak files for bankruptcy.
The Data: A Good Week for Builders
Builder confidence rises for the fourth consecutive month, and the American Institute of Architects billing index is positive for the second straight month. But the residential remodeling index and housing starts (pdf) both decline. Industrial production (pdf) increases while producer prices ease. Mark Perry reports that auto plants are at capacity and the revenues of our top 500 manufacturing firms almost equal the gross domestic product of Japan (not that anyone can trust G.D.P. numbers any more). Steve Hamm suggests measuring Gross National Happiness.
The Big Story: SOPA Backlash
A bunch of major Web sites protest the SOPA/PIPA legislation. Both Sally Cohn and this video explain what’s going on. This issue is so serious that even Mark Zuckerberg is tweeting about it. Two of the bill’s sponsors back out and the Internet community cheers. But another sponsor calls the protests a publicity stunt. The White House does not support either bill. Pippa is upset, too.
Around the Country: New York Stories
As manufacturing activity (pdf) in the region expands, New York City’s Transit Workers Union extends its Rate-My-Rat contest. A store in Chelsea is the spot to watch in 2012, and here’s how one of New York’s hottest co-working spaces started. The story of this 92-year-old family-run manufacturer in Queens offers hope. A new law allows wineries to ship directly to New Jersey homes. Target plans to sell goods from small-business boutiques.
Around the World: China Is Not a Threat
These countries are the economic winners and losers since 2007. Iceland is recovering from its meltdown. Former President Bill Clinton says that economic success is tied to global collaboration. His wife says, “Get me a ladder!” A breakthrough is saving lives in rural Africa. A small tech business in Pakistan tries to succeed. Google apologizes to a Kenyan start-up for its “dirty” business tactics. Britain’s oldest shopkeeper retires. World manufacturing eyes its next growth market: Iraq. More than half of China’s people now live in cities — and they get around on the world’s largest bus. With the Chinese economy slowing more than expected, Connor Sen explains why the country poses no long-term military threat to the United States: “It’s hard to imagine China sending millions of young men off to die in battle when the country will be starved for young labor within a decade.”
Ideas: Doctors Are Making Rookie Mistakes
A new small-business deal site and a new remix for Fresh Prince fans were both introduced last week. When it comes to running their own businesses, doctors are making rookie mistakes. Forget wedding planners — how about starting up a marriage proposal business? Elaine Rogers offers a self-care manual and reminds us that business owners who enjoy relaxation outside of their businesses are more likely to be productive and engaged at work. Teenagers get a chance to show they are entrepreneurs. The BBC predicts what life will be like 100 years from now. A college basketball player shows how to hit a full-court shot, and a lazy Jedi eats breakfast.
Marketing: Trust Me. I’m a Salesman!
Industry Market Trends recommends 26 trade shows to visit this year. Kelly Clay explains how to create a one-page Web site. Sam Boush offers an introduction to B2C marketing automation. Here’s how Toshiba uses social media to make products its customers really want. René Shimada Siegel explains how to write a thank-you note that matters: “When the sender is a busy executive, handwritten notes are so remarkable that they easily earn awe and admiration.” Do you know why brands like Puma and General Electric are flocking to Instagram? Frank Belzer asks, can you sell like the “Iron Lady?” Steve Reeves says, “Trust me, I’m a salesman!” Alex Salkever says mobile advertising might really rock at the shopping mall. Wendy Kenney lists 30 ways to make your business stand out.
Start-Up: SXSW for Only $217
Women 2.0 unveils the finalists for its start-up competition. Johnson & Johnson says there are no strings attached to its San Diego biotech start-up center. Here’s how to introduce your start-up at SXSW for only $217. Robert Scoble explains why he loves PandoDaily, a new media company focused on start-ups. As Jessica Alba adds entrepreneur to her credits, a bunch of other celebrities say hello. A Mississippi sports radio start-up is booming.
Your People: Call Your Mom
Do your employees consider their jobs to be among the most stressful in America? Well, just tell them to call but not to text their mothers. Rich Mogull explains how to monitor employees without going too far: “Investigators and managers shouldn’t be allowed to track everything an employee is doing and peek in whenever they want. This is where you open yourself up to legal risk or make your employees feel like they are living in a bad reality TV show.” Rohit Bhargava offers three ways to inspire employees using social media — including: “There are plenty of organizations and meet-up-style events that are promoted through social media. Offer an incentive to employees to attend those events. It can be a great way for them to learn something and make new connections.” Workers agree that having a wellness program encourages them to work harder and perform better.
Boss of the Week: Cliff Wilson
Learning that a potential buyer would close down his manufacturing plant, this retiring 76-year-old business owner turned down the offer and instead sold his company to his employees. Eight years later, the company is fully employee-owned and thriving.
Finance: Raising Fees Creatively
As some A.T.M. owners find new and more creative ways to raise their fees, a small California bank expands its business lending staff. A new service from Bill.com enables banks to offer business customers online accounts-payable and accounts-receivable services. A solar start-up raises $41 million. David Beisel says you know a venture capitalist is serious when he or she visits your office. A subscription service that produces and delivers hands-on activity boxes for children raises $5 million.
Technology: Windows XP Still Rules
While tablet adoption rises in the corporate world, Windows XP (not Windows 7) still rules the business desktop. Zappos says its customer database was hacked. I.B.M. announces new cloud services for social networking and collaboration. A mobile payments provider, BilltoMobile, unveils a new one-click mobile Web transaction process for making purchases with a wireless device. Lisa Braithwaite gives great advice for speaking on Skype including: “Remember: people can see you.”
The Week’s Bests
Things to Avoid When Raising Capital. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan warns about liquidation preferences: “The liquidation preference determines how the pie is shared in a liquidity event (M&A, I.P.O.). In a fair situation: investors get their money back before anyone else does, even though the risk-and-return trade-off would require that everyone wins or loses together. But with leverage a venture capitalist will be able to land a 1x liquidation preference; which is standard. If they ask for anything more than that, tell them to take a hike; you’ll never see a return.”
Way to Be Disciplined. Brett and Kate McKay offer suggestions for strengthening (and conserving) willpower, including: “Look for ways to monitor, gather data, and ‘quantify’ your life. Keep a food diary of what you eat each day. Weigh yourself every morning (while you may have heard weight loss gurus tell you this is a bad idea, studies have shown that those who weigh themselves daily are more successful at shedding the pounds). Use Web sites like Mint.com to keep track of your finances, and apps that track how you spend your time online. And so on. The more clear reminders you have of both your progress and your backsliding, the more likely it is you’ll stay on track.
Justification for Buying a Kindle. Anne Kreamer offers the business case for reading novels: To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day — co-workers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction. It’s when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience.”
This Week’s Question: Do you read fiction? Have any novels been meaningful to the running of your business?